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  1. Dismas

    Dismas Member

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    Can a Loner Write Good Characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Dismas, Jun 22, 2016.

    This is something thats been really bothering me lately, and I was hoping someone could offer me some perspective on this. Long story short, I don't have any friends. I'm close to my immediate family and I pal along with people at work, but I don't hang out with anyone, don't go to the bar with guys, don't do parties, etc.

    So, with this in mind, can I write good characters? It seems to me that, in order to write a deep, compelling character you'd have to have a bunch of real-life people to model the off of, to give you ideas about how people from different backgrounds talk and think, to truly understand which events shape the life of a person and how. I, obviously, lack this.
     
  2. I.A. By the Barn

    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    I think you should be able to. Just think about key points of personality (you can look up numerous articles on how to create a good, complex character) such as what they want, why they want it, what will help them get it, what won't, their outlook on life and their relationships with other characters because not all characters will act the same way around the same person. There'll be others that I've missed out, but just think how can this character progress (or halt) the plot and make sure you are consistent with reactions and actions.
     
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  3. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Many antisocial people have written great literature. E.g Lovecraft, Poe. As long as you understand how people work, and maybe do some research, you've got it.
     
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  4. izzybot

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I'm not good with people in practice, but I've read a ton and watched a ton of movies and most importantly spent like a decade casually studying psychology, so I feel pretty confident in my ability to understand people in theory. There's definitely ways around not having much of a social circle. I also take every opportunity I can to really pay attention when I am around other folks and commit to memory things about them that I haven't thought of or noticed before, which you might be able to do at work?
     
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  5. A man called Valance

    A man called Valance Contributing Member

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    "So, with this in mind, can I write good characters?"

    Of course you can, writing is a lonely pursuit anyway. When you sit down to write, leave the shackles of the real world behind. You're Almighty God with the power to create some wonderful characters, so go ahead and create them.
     
  6. U.G. Ridley

    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    Granted, Lovecraft wasn't the greatest character writer. Or rather, he was a reaaally bad dialogue writer.
     
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  7. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sure. I think it'd be hard to write good characters if you absolutely hated people and wanted to avoid them at all costs, but I think it can actually be an advantage to be near people without really being part of the crowd. Instead of getting caught up in whatever they're caught up in, you can stand back a little, observe, analyze, and understand. Pretty valuable for characterization, I'd say!
     
  8. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does anyone still do this? Back in the 1970s and 80s we did, but these days? Not so sure. Maybe on TV, but that's not necessarily a reflection of life. But then, on TV, everybody's got friends unless they're serial killers.

    I've been a loner all my life, even back when I hung out in bars with people I sometimes referred to as 'friends.' I suppose, looking back now, some of them actually were.

    But my point is that I write pretty good characters and I hardly know anyone at all except my wife. I don't think it's about how many people you know; it's about how well you understand why they do the things they do. If you know that, you can create well-rounded characters.

    Even just knowing one person—yourself—this can work. For instance, let's say you want your character to fight for something, a cause or a promotion at work, whatever. Remember when you fought for something? If you never did, have you ever seen someone else fight for something? Or, if neither of those are accounted for in your experience, can you imagine what it would be like to fight for something?

    Why did you fight for that something? Why did you keep going, even when it seemed like you wouldn't win?

    And you can go all the way back to childhood to find these motivations if that's what it takes.

    Now, take that inking of understanding and apply it to your character and his/her circumstances.
     
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  9. mashers

    mashers Senior Member

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    I can understand the OP's predicament. I have Aspergers and don't have friends, nor do I want them. I spend most of my time with my partner and have plenty of social contact through my work (too much in fact).

    I observe people with curiosity as people appear very strange to me. I try to emulate styles of dialogue used by characters in books as films who behave how I think my characters would behave. The difficulty I have is that I frequently misunderstand people and can't be sure I have communicated what I think I have when I write something!
     
  10. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe it also depends on what kind of characters you're planning to write. Then again, even on this forum you can connect with other people and learn about their experiences. Say, you want to write a war vet. You can interview a person who's been to war. Say you want to write an addict, you can talk to someone who's experienced that. Usually people like to talk about their experiences.

    So, no, in order to write convincing characters you don't have to be a social butterfly. If you don't want to drink and party, but would want to write a party animal, you can probably do it pretty convincingly without having to suffer a rainy Friday night out in town, barhopping (because all the bars are full), trying to have conversations over too loud music, your dance moves mostly consisting of you trying to shake some random guy's crotch off your ass, losing your purse because you didn't want to bring it to the dance floor, drunken duckface selfies, and so on.
     
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  11. hawls

    hawls Active Member

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    Being a writer is about being observant.

    You have a perspective no one else has. Yours.

    You can offer insights about people that most people will overlook or take for granted because they are not in your situation.
     
  12. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lots of writers are loners at some level. I've even heard one anecdote that a lot of people in the fiction community talk using the rythyms of written dialogue rather than normal speech, becasue they hand out with fictional characters more than real people.

    Now, honestly, I think it's always good to push your own social boundaries for self-betterment, but that's another discussion and that's a process.

    For WRITING good characters - I think you need two things. First you need to READ good characters. Characters aren't real, they're constructed, they're built - read other people who build them well and you can learn how. Just like learning to build a birdhouse or whatever.

    Second, even if you don't interact with a ton of people, you can OBSERVE a ton of people. If you're in a coffee shop, mentally tune into the conversation at the next table over. If someone walks by you talking loudly on a phone, make mental notes on the conversation. Writers are students of the human condition. A lot of times we are shy people who don't really get other people, and so we approach them as research subjects - a species we don't quite get but are keen to learn more about. That's certainly my experience. Heck, I purposefully have one character who's highly extroverted, very cool, and a professional fashionista - mostly because that's pretty far from my own experience and so writing her is a fun way of approaching thought processes that I don't normally engage with.
     
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  13. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    THIS ^^^^^^^
     
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  14. Witchymama

    Witchymama Active Member

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    As an introvert myself, I certainly hope that loners can write good characters. I think that the only limits to the creation of full and diverse characters are the ones we place on ourselves.
    Even without an entourage of friends and followers you still have a lot of references to base character traits on, just from all the media and entertainment venues available at the touch of a button.
    Don't sell yourself short.
    Introverts unite..... you know, alone.
     
  15. peachalulu

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm an introvert and I have worried about my ability to create good characters. I think the key though is observation and interpretation. You could be the most outgoing popular person imaginable but that doesn't necessarily give you the quality to turn what you know into good writing. As long as you can observe, empathize, and imagine you should be okay. I take a note pad with me and when I notice something interesting - a trait someone has, a comment they made, a curious gesture I write it down. You'd be amazed at how many interesting things you can discover.

    Also character depth is just adding layers to make your character's motivation make sense. There's factual layers and emotional layers. Baggage, past hurts & loves that help to spark their actions and responses. It's like watching a YouTube video of a woman verbally attacking an interacial couple. Your immediate response might be to write her off as a bigot. However that's when you should let your imagination flow - what's her background? What's her day-to-day life? Maybe things are more complicated than the obvious response. What's created her viewpoint? What's happened to make her lash out at people?
     
  16. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Who wants waffles...? Contributor

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    Why can't a loner write interesting characters? I am damn near the epitome of the term, having an extreme introversion and damn near total isolation. According to some I have some fun and interesting characters, and they are based on my warped imagination. I don't like people cause I feel they judge me on my appearance and not who I am as an individual (but that is just the social standard of imposed beauty at work). I actually went out of my way to have an MC be a severe burn victim, and still make him appealing to another MC for everything he is, and not his looks.

    Of course I don't have the bastard televised crap to bother me, or influence my life. Socially I am regressing because I have less in common with my peer group, and am as lonely for not being apart of what mindless dribble they are. :p
     
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  17. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Come on @CT, don't be lonely. Squeeze my toe, thank you.

    :/
     
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  18. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Who wants waffles...? Contributor

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    Weird.jpg
     
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  19. haider

    haider Member

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    I am in familiar situation as you are .But I think the solution necessary not to have interaction .But good observation skills that help you to get as much out little conversation or glance .I suggest you read about great leaders , warriors , soldiers and politicians .Or even watch interview of countries leaders such Bashar al Assad .Not saying , don't interact with casual people you know .But its matter of observations and psychoanalysis skills and imagination.
     

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